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SK postponement bill awaits Noy signature

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The bill postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections is now on President Aquino’s desk, waiting to be signed, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said over the weekend.

Belmonte told journalists that the House submitted the enrolled copy of the SK Elections Postponement bill last week for Aquino’s signature.

“We expect this bill to be the first law passed in this 16th Congress,” he said.

The House and the Senate on Tuesday ratified the bicameral conference committee report postponing the SK elections originally set on Oct. 28 to a date to be determined by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, a member of the bicameral conference committee on the SK Bill, said the SK polls will be moved to a date between Oct. 28 next year to Feb. 23, 2015.

The House’s “no holdover” provision, which prohibits incumbent SK officials from continuing in office after their term expires on Nov. 30, prevailed in the bicameral conference committee report.

Belmonte said the postponement was part of the reform thrusts of the Aquino administration. He said Congress would ask Malacañang to issue guidelines on the use of the SK funds, which is 10 percent of the internal revenue allotment received by barangays.

“The barangay is going to use 10 percent SK fund for youth development programs in the interim,” Castelo said. He said lawmakers are seeking to reform the barangay-based youth government.

Castelo sought to correct Comelec Chairman Sixto Brilliantes Jr., who said there would be no SK elections until Congress approves a reform bill.

The lawmaker said the SK elections should push through, whether or not Congress passes a reform bill, as he noted a commitment made during the bicameral conference committee meeting to file and approve such a measure. He said he would file an SK reform bill.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, one of the principal authors of the bill, described the postponement as “a positive step towards the reforms needed in the barangay-based youth organization.”

“This only shows that our lawmakers are determined to change the present system of youth participation in governance while a consensus has not yet been made on whether to reform the SK or to totally abolish it,” Erice said.

Intensive drive vs loose firearms

The Comelec has ordered an intensified campaign against loose firearms and private armed groups to prevent election-related  violence and deaths.

Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca said the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police (PNP) must address the problem of loose firearms and armed groups. She said an intensified campaign is the only way to resolve election-related violence.

“We hope they will really a have a serious campaign against loose firearms as well as private armed groups so that we can lessen the casualties this elections,” Padaca said.

The Comelec earlier said that the barangay elections would likely be more intense than the last May elections as the fights are within the same community and disputes could be more personal and difficult to monitor.

Citing data from the PNP, Padaca said a total of 47 barangay chairmen and 49 barangay councilors have been killed since January this year.

The figure was higher than the 12 village chiefs and 10 kagawads killed in the 2010 elections.

The Comelec said not all incidents involving barangay officials have been proven to be election-related.

“In the list of 97 incidents, only 24 are election-related, “ Padaca said. – With Mayen Jaymalin

AQUINO

ARMED FORCES AND THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE

BARANGAY

BELMONTE

BILL

CALOOCAN CITY REP

CASTELO

COMELEC

ELECTIONS

PADACA

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